In a meeting today at Microsoft’s Mountain View, CA offices, Kevin Browne, General Manager for Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) reaffirmed the company’s commitment to develop products for Apple’s Mac OS X operating system.
The meeting was as a result of speculation that Microsoft may not support the Mac with products like Internet Explorer and Office once the technology agreement with Apple expires. Signed on August 5, 1997, the agreement gave Apple five years that they could count on Microsoft products for the platform. The agreement expires this summer.
Browne made it very clear that the MacBU is a business and decisions are made to ensure the business is successful and profitable. Browne also pointed out that the MacBU was formed before Apple and Microsoft signed the agreement in 1997.
Saying that he had no anxiety about not having a signed agreement with Apple, Browne said that Microsoft had gone beyond the stipulations of the agreement. “If you compare what we had to do with what we actually did, we have gone far beyond the agreement,” said Browne.
“The assumption has been that without an agreement in place, there’s no way Microsoft would be doing this business,” Browne said. “The relationship between Microsoft and Apple really has nothing to do with the technology agreement. The technology agreement never has and never will define what we do on the Mac or how we do it.”
All of Microsoft’s future products will be OS X only. However, security updates and maintenance releases will be issued for their OS 9 products, if and when they are needed. Microsoft will also keep OS 9 versions of their products on store shelves “until demand dries up.”
Having the MacBU focus their resources will help Mac users in the long run. Engineers that now have to split their time between working on OS 9 and OS X products can focus on the company’s OS X products. While Browne said he is happy with the products the MacBU is producing, they are not all they could be — this focus will help to get them to a higher level.
Microsoft was also one of the early supporters of Mac OS X, making statements during Steve Jobs’ keynote that they would be bringing IE and Office to the new OS. In subsequent Macworld keynote addresses, Microsoft demoed Office, showing the crowd how they were taking advantage of OS X’s core technologies.
Users of Office v. X will be glad to hear that an update, SR-1, will be available for free at the end of May or early June. The update contains 1000 changes, bug fixes and performance improvements; contains full support for anti-aliasing text; ODBC support; and the ability for Office talk to FileMaker servers.
A Palm conduit is also in the works for users of Entourage. “We are working very hard on our Palm Sync conduit,” Browne said. “We know this is something people really want, but we want to make sure it’s done right. It will be released with the service release or shortly thereafter.”
Microsoft today also pledged to make its OS X applications compatible with the company’s .Net strategy. While they won’t be making .Net available to run on Mac OS X as a server application, Microsoft Office will be able to communicate with the XML-based service. “The way we’re looking at the Mac is that it’s a great client platform to connect to .Net,” Browne said.
With .Net, Mac users will be able to access their Entourage calendars, contacts, favorites and more, from any computer. The .Net strategy will also help simplify the integration of Macs into corporate networks in small and large businesses.
Microsoft will also look at bringing other applications to the Mac, where it makes good business sense. For example, Browne said that Access, Microsoft’s database program, would not be brought over to Mac OS X. He explained that it would take his entire team two or three years of work to bring Access to the Mac — all the while, no work would be done on Office, Internet Explorer or any other application they may want to bring over the Mac OS X.
While this day was for Microsoft to solidify their support for Apple, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing was also on hand at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus today. When asked after the event about Microsoft’s commitment to Apple, Schiller said, “they are like every other developer; they’re going to make their business decisions based on how good the business is. Kevin gave some good examples over the last five years showing that Microsoft did a lot of things that the agreement didn’t say they had to do — the only reason they did those things is because they made good business sense.”